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Of the 600 young people with eating disorders who were surveyed, 91 percent reported being the victim of bullying, and 46 percent felt that it contributed to their development of an eating disorder. About half of the respondents reported being bullied for a period of two to five years, while 11 percent reported being bullied for six years or more.
Beat chief executive Susan Ringwood commented on the results of the study: “Bullying undermines young peoples’ self-confidence and lowers their self-esteem, raising the risk of eating disorders. Eating disorders are complex with no single cause but bullying is a significant factor for too many people.”
One 23-year-old man who responded to the survey recalled his experiences as a victim of bullying and, eventually, an eating disorder sufferer: “I only had one friend in high school, but even he bullied me when the others were around. A lot of my classmates didn’t want to associate with me in case they got picked on too. As the bullying grew worse and more kids joined in, I would run out of lessons to escape the abuse.
“I hid in the boy’s toilets where I knew I wouldn’t be found. There I would comfort eat to ease the tension and anxiety that had built up inside me throughout the day and I began to make myself sick. Over time, it developed into bulimia and it took me many years to recover.”
Beat is calling for additional research into the relationship between bullying and eating disorders. According to Beat, approximately 1.6 million people in the United Kingdom suffer from eating disorders.